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Nebraska Football Season’s End Roundtable

The Good, The Bad and The We’re Done with 2020

Iowa v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

It was no secret that Nebraska was determined to play this season. That ruckus drew unwanted national attention and a 3-5 record made Nebraska the butt of jokes by national writers and other athletic departments.

Three of those losses were by one possession.

On the flip side, two of the wins were by one possession.

Now that bowl season is over and all that’s left is the national championship game, let’s take minute to put a lid on the 2020 season.

Your overall thoughts? Did this season turn out better than expected? Worse? About what you expected?

Nate M: In all honesty I didn’t know what to expect going into the season. I could have talked myself into going 0-8 or 7-1 because it was a conference only slate and those first four games were going to be brutal. Just think if we would have received that schedule with the foresight of knowing that Northwestern was going to win the division. Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northwestern (future division champ) and Penn State. Still would have to play Iowa and Minnesota.

That is a brutal schedule.

I guess I could say that it’s kind in the middle of possible extremes. With that said, that doesn’t mean you don’t walk away disappointed in several respects.

Patrick: I really didn’t have a whole lot of expectations going into this season. In fact, I was kind of surprised it even happened. I am still scratching my head, wondering if we should have even played it. No, that isn’t even going off of Nebraska’s lackluster performance. COVID created a lot of havoc that I think we have yet to realize.

As for the Huskers, it started out rough and eventually got better as the season moved along. That’s kind of how Scott Frost’s teams have gone.

Brianna C: I wasn’t really sure what to expect this season. Before the season started I was really lost on how I should be feeling. Throughout the season, I still wasn’t really sure what I should be feeling. It was all just confusing.

In the end though, I feel like the team showed some improvement from last year and that if this had been a normal year, we might have been feeling much better about this team.

Jill: I hoped for a bit more progress in some areas than we saw. Quarterback play was...well...up and down. An offensive line that was returning all starters turned into three freshman starters at the end of the season. The win-loss record was probably about right but I had hoped for a .500 record.

Mike: I’ve been an optimist regarding Scott Frost, but I’ve got to admit that I was underwhelmed this season. Losses to Ohio State and Northwestern didn’t bother me tremendously, but the losses to Illinois and Minnesota were disheartening. But considering all of the non-football issues this season, it’s really tough to take much, if anything, tangible from this season. Survive and advance.

Jon: We played football. I didn’t think we would. I thought we’d make it into one or two games and the Big Ten would call everything off again. I felt that it was a throw-away year, and sometimes it felt like that’s how we coached and played. A LOT of players saw the field this year. Mike is right about the losses to Illinois and Minnesota. Hopefully we’ll have next year. We’ll have a spring game. I realize the state’s ego is run off football but there’s always.. well, volleyball, wrestling and baseball this winter and spring. Men’s basketball - just see some growth.

Andy: Overall, I was very pleased with how the season went when I stopped howling about the losses long enough to look beyond the record. I said that everything from 0-8 to 7-1 was on the table this season with the bell curve likely landing us somewhere in the middle and that completely gutless prediction was right on. We were 3-5 and if we didn’t keep swallowing the pistol at the worst possible times, it could very well have been 7-1.

Ohio St. blew our doors off but Clemson just proved that wasn’t so embarrassing. We outplayed Northwestern while being completely unable to perform in the red zone which looks very good now. We’ve gone from being shitmixed by 7-4 type teams 3 years ago to competing with just about everyone on a brutal schedule. The challenge is now finding a way to get over & win the tight ones. Good things are on the horizon.

What was the bright spot? What did you see for the Huskers to build on in 2021?

Nate M: The defense and the future of the offensive line. That might be it. The return of JoJo Domann, Cam Taylor-Britt and hopefully several other former seniors will set this defense up for the future. The offensive line started three freshmen and a sophomore against Rutgers and looked pretty good.

Patrick: I think the bright spot was the holes that are still in the system. We, as a fanbase, have a real idea on where this team is at right now. Development across the board is better than it was three year ago, but it still has a ways to go. The talent is there, but they still need to integrate into the system better. Coaching, something that we all thought was going to be a brighffft spot, has turned has had it’s own growing pains. This all sounds bad but I like to know these things before going into a season. I wish we would have know more about these areas going into this year.

Brianna C.: The defense was definitely the bright spot for me. They weren’t always perfect, but they were more solid than I ever expected and the play of the young players makes me excited for years to come.

Jill: Both lines gave me some hope for the future. I’ve felt like Nebraska has been getting pushed around in the trenches a lot in the Big Ten and that we couldn’t really fix other areas of the program until the lines got right. I don’t know yet which seniors will be returning along the d-line but if Stille and Daniels do return, there will be some established leaders there for sure. The young o-line has some talent - they just need to become more consistent.

Mike: Everyone else touched on it, but the defense showed significant progress in 2020. Nobody is going to confuse them with the 1995 or 2009 Blackshirts, but the NU defense looked like something that could win some games for Nebraska.

Jon: We actually looked like we got to the point that we could play both lines in the Big Ten and not look like a MAC team. There’s a ways to go, but at least it was improvement.

Andy: Definitely the defense. I’m still no fan of the 3-4 but the Blackshirts showed a heartbeat more than once from pressuring the QB to the DB’s getting their swagger on. Hopefully, the senior domino effect keeps falling - I want all those guys back.

If you could wave a magic wand and fix one (specific) thing about Husker football, what would it be?

Nate M: Quarterback play. That’s it. That’s the tweet.

Brianna C: Passing. That’s not copying Nate is it?

Patrick: The ability to be an independent team and prosper. No more conferences.

Jill: In order to not copy the above...I’ll go with special teams. Our punter and kicker were fine but the coverage units were horrendous. I mean, Nebraska gave up TWO fourth and long conversions because EVERYONE turned their back on the punter. In both cases, the punters gave the Huskers plenty of time to reconsider life decisions before finally taking off and making the line to gain. On one of those Frost later admitted there were only 10 men on the field. This is basic math. It shouldn’t be that hard.

Oh wait, can I pick turnovers and penalties too?

Mike: A commitment to running the dadgummed ball with an I-back. Nebraska’s offense got a lot better in 2018 when Nebraska leaned on Devine Ozigbo, and the Huskers seemed to have their best performances the last two seasons when Dedrick Mills was the focal point of the offense. I can’t put my head around it, but it’s almost like Frost and Lubick want to play with their fun toys in their offense more than just get down to business and dominate.

Jon: Consistently hit a wide open receiver over 15 yards down the field. If we did that this season, we win all our games. Maybe not Ohio State, but the rest. I believe Frost’s offense can work and score a lot of points, but holy shit you can’t keep missing opportunities like we had this season.

Andy: Admit the QB “battle” is over. Luke couldn’t hit a battleship at midfield if it was more than 8 yards from the line of scrimmage. Turn him into our version of Slash Stewart, make Smothers the backup & let’s go. Adrian’s deep ball isn’t perfect either but after a shaky start, he completed over 70% of his passes for the season and again became that guy who could turn disaster into big plays with his legs.

Offensive MVP? Why?

Nate M: lol.

Brianna C.- Wan’Dale. He was a bright spot in many dismal performances.

Patrick: Brendan Jaimes - he did a decent job at tackle.

Jill: No one, Wan’Dale and Jaimes are all good choices. Since others already picked them, I’ll go with... I dunno... Matt Farniok deserves at least a shoutout for making the move from tackle to guard before the season and then stabilizing the center position a couple times when Jurgens got the yips. A versatile and consistent offensive lineman is worth his weight in gold - or steak.

Mike: How about Austin Allen? The big tight end was NU’s second leading receiver, and had several clutch catches that kept drives alive.

Jon: Cameron Jurgens. If it wasn’t for those sonofabitches in Iowa clapping at the line we wouldn’t have noticed his snap issues. Seriously, he got better. Didn’t he?

Andy: Wan’Dale and Adrian as co-MVP’s. Wan’Dale was a warrior on every snap and Adrian reacted to adversity with class and guts - from being a fantastic teammate when he lost the starting job to holding onto it with an iron fist when he got it back. I’d go to war with either of those guys.

Defensive MVP? Why?

Nate M: JoJo Domann and Cam Taylor-Britt. They made plays all season long. That defense played well enough to have at least two more wins.

Brianna C: Cam Taylor -Britt. He was able to contain some big receivers and came up with the big plays when they were needed.

Patrick: Will Honas - Second on the team in tackles and lead the team in sacks. Not that there were a lot of sacks...

Jill: I like all of the above selections, but will avoid duplication and give a shoutout to the line. I had to look up Casey Rogers the first time I did a recap and I probably should have mentioned him in my “surprises”. Damion Daniels did his job in eating space and Ben Stille has improved every year as a Husker.

Other players in the defensive backfield including Dicaprio Bootle and Deontai Williams also deserve some love. And some other linebackers impressed - especially Luke Reimer... Actually, the 2020 Blackshirt defense was very much a group effort. Everyone stepped up at times (there were mistakes too, but we’re going with positive thoughts).

I’ve talked myself into “team defense” for MVP.

Mike: Cam Taylor-Britt has been one of my favorite Huskers the last two seasons, and I’m so happy to see him and JoJo Domann planning to return in 2021.

Jon: Casey Rogers. Ty Robinson. Daniels. Stille. Our defensive line from 2019 went to the NFL and most people thought our defense would be terrible. The number of “Fire Erik Chinander” comments on this web site went from eleventy billion in 2019 to single digits this season. That’s quite a difference.

Andy: I was chewing on this hard then saw the above responses and and am absolutely jumping on the team bandwagon. Here’s my MVP:

Other thoughts?

Nate M: The success or failure of this coaching staff rides and dies on the quarterback position. It is my thought that it was a mistake by this staff (likely from a level of arrogance) that they thought they could turn Luke McCaffrey into a Power Five legitimate quarterback. They don’t seem to be backing off on that point though so maybe that know something I don’t or they see something that I have yet to see. This season he looked like a wildcat quarterback and not the future at the position.

Logan Smothers looks like a more natural quarterback from his high school film so maybe he will be able to compete with Martinez for playing time in 2021.

Regarding Martinez, he showed flashes of his 2018 self at times in 2020. It’s his continual lack of taking care of the football which may end up being his downfall.

Brianna C: Next year is the year. Right? That’s how this works isn’t it?

Patrick: It’s Nebrasketball season!

Jill: On to volleyball!

Mike: I believe Frost believes in his quarterbacks ability to make plays with their legs, almost to the detriment of the rest of the offense. Certainly the I-backs could be utilized more, and when a quarterback is completing nearly 72% of his passes, NU should have more than five touchdown passes in eight games. Hopefully, a more normal spring will help get Nebraska’s young receivers more involved in the offense so that it becomes more diverse. What also would help is finding a role for Luke McCaffrey. His 1/6 touchdown/interception ratio should be strong evidence that he’s not Nebraska’s quarterback of the future. But he’s too talented to just sit on the bench. Find a spot for him on the field at I-back or receiver or maybe even as a wildcat quarterback at times, just to shake things up.

Jon: This year started with Scott Frost wanting to play football, then being beat up by national media pundits, some of whom wanted Nebraska thrown out of the Big Ten. Nebraska was attacked for trying to play an out-of-conference game, while making the point that another Big Ten team might needing games to make it into the College Football Playoff.

Nebraska, Scott Frost, our fan base - all ridiculed by media and other fans.

Good game Nebraska. Thanks for bringing back B1G football.

That was from Minnesota after their win. Illinois did the same. Now Ohio State is in the national title game with a puncher’s chance to beat Alabama. It’s not so much of a joke now, is it mother fuckers? We ARE NOW MORE BIG TEN THAN MOST OF YOU, you candy ass, spineless tits, cowering below your “this is how we’ve always done it” council of presidents and chancellors.

No matter what happens in the national title game, we are now forever linked to Ohio State. Should we leave the Big Ten? Fuck no. We should stay, inevitably be better, kick the shit out of every one and be the insufferable sunsabitches they accuse us of being.

Andy: It’s absolutely stupid to be playing college football this year but of course I watched all I could. I guess I would like to offer my heartfelt apologies to the B1G for trying to play a football game during the open date caused by Wisconsin’s Covid issues. We should have known better than to challenge the conferences iron-clad rule regarding out of conference play (except for basketball) and realized they are far too ethical to bend or change their rules (unless it messes with getting Ohio St in the CFP).

We promise to stick to long-held B1G traditions such as covering up spousal abuse, letting team doctors serial abuse our female athletes, mentally abusing our football players, physically abusing & killing them, letting former assistant coaches use our facilities to rape & molest kids, playing our clearly concussed QB’s, attempting to manipulate grades & medical reports and verbally abusing our minority players for not dressing like flannel-clad rednecks among other things.

OK, apologies may be the wrong word. I think I meant to say “Go fuck yourselves. See ya next year.”